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Every mile of trail in French Creek Park has my footprints on it. After years of hiking there, I sought out the few miles I had not yet hiked to reach that goal. Some trails were friendlier than others. Boone trail is rocky; Turtle trail has lengthy sections traveled with ease. And Mill Creek Trail, well, we have a history in every season, but the story in that history is a winter story.

Having gotten a photo worth framing in late Fall, I decided that I would return to that spot in each season. On a winter’s Sunday, with snow on the ground I set off a bit later in the afternoon than I had intended and when I remembered my hiking stick a short distance from the car, I elected to press on without it. The woods people among you know that that’s the beginning of a story that usually ends with, “and the climbers were discovered weeks later frozen on the rocks.”

Since I’m writing this you know that didn’t happen. What did happen was that the footing was slippery, having started late, I took the shortest route to the creek, which was also the steepest and rockiest, reached the creeks and had a wonderful time replicating the angle of the previous photo and snapping shots of ice over rapid stream water. The low angle of light eventually convinced me that I was having too much fun and it was time to move along.

A short distance back up the trail, my left knee began to scream in pain every time my foot hit the ground. That does slow one down, as does looking for a suitable tree branch to use as a walking stick. Having located a proper one, all that was left was to keep moving at whatever pace back to the car. Suffice it to say that “pace” slowed arithmetically followed by geometrically. First I celebrated attaining the hilltop, then the former logging road, then the real road at which point I fervently wished I had parked in that parking lot.

It became a lopsided race between me and sunset as I did the last trudge from the road, through more woods, to the parking lot. It was a tie. Although the sun could rest, I could not. Driving a stick shift with a bum knee is not the most pleasant especially with the probability of icy patches.

Mill Creek and I have since made our peace and I’ve had some of the best lunches ever sitting on a boulder listening to the burbling water.


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